The nerdy girl in fuchsia hair and silver boots?
Yup. That was me.
The one who seemed to have a feather boa in every color — and heels to match?
Right. Me again.
Hey, I was young and it was the '80s. For work, I wore suits with a little silk tie at the neck — all very Diane Keaton in "Baby Boom." I saved the boots and boas for happy hour, and the dye washed out when I was caught in the rain. I was outfitted by convention when required and the rest of the time, I dressed as I pleased.
Ten years later, it was a different story. Thanks to one Jewish mother and an overzealous saleswoman, when I walked down the aisle on that “special day,” I was all sparkle, bows and poof. Let’s just say, I should’ve listened to my gut!
Since then? I dress for the occasion and to please myself. Age doesn’t even enter into the equation. My style runs from Writer Grunge to Parisian Classic. In other words, arty munchkin meets pencil skirts, form-fitting tops, one statement accessory and a flirty foulard. And dare I say … Carrie Bradshaw has nothing on me in the footwear department!
So why is it that we hit a certain milestone — maybe it’s 40, maybe it’s 50 — and suddenly we worry about "dressing our age"? What exactly does that mean? Are we afraid of taking a risk? Are we afraid of looking foolish?
If you take a gander at Google and search “dress your age,” you’ll note 187 million results. Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore! Gone are the days of guidance by Glamour magazine's Do’s and Don’ts; instead, it’s either a roadmap to the plastic surgeon, or rolling out the yellow brick road to the wizards of midlife-mandated taste.
In case you’re curious, some of the dictums I ran across for the 40+ woman include: never show your arms, never wear shorts, no ponytails, no braids.
After that little list, I find myself wondering if we’ve forgotten about Michelle Obama’s beautiful biceps. Doesn’t she knock it out of the park in bermudas, too? And why not a tidy tail of locks if you think it’s flattering? Isn’t that really the point — what looks good, what feels good, and what suits the occasion? Have we forgotten about fashion as costuming for a variety of parts, fashion as statement of identity, fashion as fun?
If you’re curious, here’s a sampling of the hottest trends for Spring 2014, compliments of Elle Magazine, and fresh off the runways of New York Fashion Week. Care for crop tops? They can be very cute. But if you’re short and amply endowed, they cut you down to munchkin status. That’s not a matter of age; it’s all body type. Ditto on the trend toward sheer fabrics, wide pants, and to some degree, the prevalence of graphic patterns.
Floral is another upcoming trend. It’s not my thing but if it’s yours — go for it! And the flirty fringe that shimmied along the catwalk? I say, have at it — as long as you don’t channel Scarlett O’Hara in velvet curtains.
My reality rules for real-world style are these: Attire should be appropriate to function and profession; otherwise, keep your nose out of my drawers, your eyes off my birth certificate and your opinions to yourself!
If you like it — buy it, wear it, rock it!
Most of us would never show up in ripped jeans to a formal event or a skanky miniskirt to an industry conference. Not at 25 and not at 50. So let’s stop stripping our wardrobes (and our options) of items we love because conventional wisdom may be wagging its index finger — or worse, our friends may be wagging their judgmental tongues.
I may gravitate toward what’s simple and classic, but the fuchsia hair is only a spray can away, the feather boas are tucked in a box in my closet and, while I’ve long since lost track of the silver boots, my zebra pumps get plenty of play time.
Frankly, I don’t give a damn what anyone says about my clothes, though I will weigh the responses of the man in my life. Sure, we can benefit from fresh input and new ideas. We can follow guidelines, if we’re uncertain. But we’re all entitled to dress as we see fit and reflect the way we actually live, as well as our comfort with our bodies. Isn’t this likely to enhance our confidence? Isn’t that the essence of successful style?